Capoeira has always been known to be a “dance” type of sport. There is so much grace involved in it that people often forget that it’s a martial art. As the capoeira song “Zum Zum Zum” goes: Zum, zum, zum, Capoeira mata um! Translated to english, this means: Zum, zum, zum, Capoeira is deadly! It is.
Why It Happened
Just like any other training session, we played in the roda (pronounced as “hoda”, the circle in which the capoeira jogo or game is played) last night. A jogo, unlike other martial arts, is more like a conversation. You’re not meant to hit each other til one reaches a knock out; you’re supposed to talk to each other through graceful kicks, escapes and movements. This is exactly why it looks more like a dance than a fight. Just as with normal conversations, it’s very important to pay attention to the one you’re talking to. If the other one kicks, you respond with a duck, you escape, you give him a counter-attack. That’s how we play the game. The moment you stop paying attention, it’s Bazinga.
In a capoeira game, both players always have responsibility for the other. Every movement should be fully controlled, every escape calculated. You can’t just keep throwing your legs in the air without thinking where they’re going. And if someone kicks you on the right side, make sure you duck on the left and not go towards the kick. Or it’s Bazinga. If you closely watch the video in the beginning of this post, you’ll know what I mean. If you escape from a kick one millisecond late, you’ll surely get a whappack in the head.
So why did I get kicked in the face? It’s simple. I bazinga’d. Hehe. I was in the roda with Mestre and I ducked in the same direction he threw his martelo (hammer kick) in. I was lucky actually, because he was able to control his leg in the middle of the kick. Otherwise, I would’ve been knocked out or dead or something. (Obrigado mestre, I’m alive!)
How To Avoid It
Although it may look like capoeiristas are just crazy people doing crazy stuff, we actually take necessary measures to ensure that we’re always safe during training. We don’t, for example, ask beginners to fly in their first session. All movements and classes are always based on a person’s strength, flexibility, and overall physical state. Despite such, as with any other sport, there is always a possibility for accidents to happen. Here are three things I’ve learned after getting my nose kicked:
- Learn then unlearn. Throughout your capoeira life, you will be taught (and you will be making) hundreds of sequences. Learn them, give them a place in your mind and heart, and when the time comes that you have to actually use them, unlearn them. Sequencias (sequences) are carefully thought of sets of movimentos (movements). They are more of guides than exact strings of movements which you should use in the capoeira game. To explain this in terms more understandable to the non-capoeirista, imagine that every capoeira move is a word. When we were just learning to read and write, we learn basic sentences like “the star is in the sky” or “that is a dog” or something. As you mature, you start understanding what they mean, but realize that you don’t really use them in actual conversations. In real life, when you talk to a person, you respond depending on what the other person says; else, you’ll be having meaningless conversations like: “what’s up”, responded with “the star is in the sky”. In capoeira, just like with other things in life, meaningless sequences (or sentences) could result to unnecessary accidents like getting kicked in the nose.
- Stay in the game. In other words, pay attention. There’s no room for a head in the clouds inside the roda (where mine always is). As a player in the roda, you are responsible for three things: yourself, your opponent, and the people around you. Be conscious of the “size” of your movements, as well as the ones’ of the person you’re playing with.
- Cover your face. Protection is very basic in any martial art. Make sure that when you do an esquiva (escape), your body, most especially your face, is always protected by your arm and hands. In this way, even if you get hit, your arm will at least be there to take the blow first.
What we always say in capoeira is that we’re all part of a familia (family). That’s the whole beauty of it, and what sets it apart from other arts. I shared my mistake here not to scare people from trying the sport, but in the hopes that the same won’t happen again (no guarantees though!). Anyway, I think my nose will be fine soon enough and I’ll be back to the mats again. As Sonhadora says, never say die. 🙂